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10 Wacky Small Town Festivals


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Festival of Near Death Experiences

If watching reruns of "Six Feet Under" or "Dead Like Me" leaves you curious about crossing over to the other side, head to the small town of Las Nieves in Galicia, Spain, near the border of Portugal, for the annual Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme, or Festival of Near Death Experiences. This festival, which takes place each year on July 29, celebrates those who have come close to death and lived to tell all about it.

What's the dress code for this festival? B.Y.O.C. -- bring your own coffin. In this bizarre pilgrimage and celebration, those who have come near to death are carried into the church in coffins by members of their families. The group follows an effigy of Santa Marta, or Saint Martha, the sister of the biblical Lazarus who Jesus rose from the dead.

Thousands of people attend this festival, and participants often spill out of the church and into the street to listen to the service over loudspeakers. After the service, attendees process out to the cemetery following behind Santa Marta, the patron saint of the town and the "saint of death."

Most attendees tell similar stories about their brushes with death; you can expect the usual accounts of bright lights and echoed voices. And while you're not likely to find any wacky coffin races at this festival, you're bound to hear some interesting, if harrowing, tales.

Finally, waste not ...